To be killed or to be alive?

One of the BBC reports on the October massacre in a Iraqi Catholic church set me thinking on two counts. I’ll come onto the second later this week, but for now I want to focus on the differing perspective of two Iraqi Christian leaders, one in Iraq and one who has moved to the UK. I essentially know nothing about either of them, and I’m certainly not in a position to comment on their standing before God, but I did think their differences were interesting.

A senior Iraqi cleric in London, Archbishop Athanasios Dawood, called on Iraqi Christians to flee the country because it was so dangerous. “If we stay, they will kill us,” he told the BBC after addressing a congregation of Iraqi Orthodox Christians at a service in London. “Which is better, to flee or to stay? To be killed or to be alive? But when I say ‘leave’, my heart is injured inside.”

Here the concern was physical safety. Clearly the decision to leave his own country and his own people was a painful one, but Archbishop Dawood felt it necessary. Much as he wanted to stay, the desire to be alive was stronger.

Compare and contrast.

In Baghdad itself, both Church leaders and Christian politicians seemed unanimous in urging their communities to stay. … “We have to stay here, whatever the sacrifices, to bear witness to our faith.”

Doubtless Ignatius Metti Metok, the Syriac Catholic Bishop of Baghdad, also wants to live. Doubtless he also wants to be safe. But more important than his safety is his witness to his faith. He answers Archbishop Dawood’s question – it is better to stay. To potentially be killed. To bear witness to his faith.

I’ve never lived anywhere like Iraq. I’m supremely unqualified to pass judgement on the decisions of any Iraqi Christians to stay or leave the country as I can’t imagine the strength of conflicting emotion there must be in such a choice. But I do find it an interesting contrast of priorities.

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